The Bees

By Bruce Mackinnon Bruce Mackinnon
One day the bees start wandering off, no one knows why.   
First one doesn’t come back, and then another and another,   
until those who are supposed to stay and guard the hive, those   
who are making the royal jelly and feeding it to the queen,   
those who form different parts of the great brain, must   
put down what it is they are doing and go off in search—   
having no choice, not if the hive is going to survive,   
and where do they go, each one vanishing, never to be seen   
again, off wandering in the wilderness, having forgotten   
how, forgotten what it was they were after, what it was   
that gave meaning, having known it at one time, now   
a veil drawn. Is it that each one is a cell, a brain cell,   
and now they’re failing one by one, plaque to Alzheimer’s,   
or the way the cells in the esophagus will begin to mimic   
the stomach if the acid is too intense, if you’re sleeping   
and the valve won’t close, a lifetime of eating and drinking   
the wrong things, those cells compensating, trying   
their best, but opening the door to those other cells,   
the wild ones, the ones that call those bees, out there,   
somewhere, lost, having nowhere to return at night,   
their search for nectar fruitful, their small saddlebags full,   
but no one to go home to, no home, no memory of home,   
it’s as if they’d stumbled into some alternate world,   
one looking like ours but just a glass width different,   
just a fraction of sunlight different, the patient waking up,   
finding herself wandering, someone leading her back   
to bed, but there is no bed. Confusion of the hive,   
they call it, and the hive dies, each bee goes down,   
each light goes out, one by one, blinking out all over town,   
seen from a great height as the night ages, darkens,   
as you’re parked in your car with your own true love,   
until it’s just you two and the stars, until it’s just you.

Source: Poetry (February 2009).

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2009

Biography

Bruce Mackinnon's Mystery Schools won the Washington Writers' Publishing House Prize in Poetry for 2007. He teaches creative writing at George Washington University.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, Health & Illness, Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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